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Ex-Nissan chief Ghosn rearrested in Tokyo

Authorities arrested the 65-year-old less than a month after he was dramatically freed on bail following more than 100 days in detention, the latest twist in a case that has gripped Japan and the business world since November.

Former Nissan chairperson Carlos Ghosn leaves the office of his lawyer Junichiro Hironaka in Tokyo on 3 April 2019. Picture: AFP

TOKYO - Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn was rearrested early Thursday in Tokyo on fresh financial misconduct allegations, with the auto tycoon slamming his detention as "outrageous and arbitrary".

Authorities arrested the 65-year-old less than a month after he was dramatically freed on bail following more than 100 days in detention, the latest twist in a case that has gripped Japan and the business world since November.

Ghosn was detained at the central Tokyo apartment he has called home since his release on bail, with local media later reporting he had been transferred to the Kosuge detention centre.

"Why arrest me except to try to break me? I will not be broken," Ghosn said in a statement issued through his representatives.

"My arrest this morning is outrageous and arbitrary."

Prosecutors said Ghosn had been detained over transfers of Nissan funds totaling $15 million between late 2015 and the middle of 2018.

They suspect $5 million of that amount was used by Ghosn for personal expenditure.

"The suspect... was responsible for overseeing the whole of Nissan's operations and performing his duty loyally so as not to cause losses to Nissan, but he betrayed that duty in order to benefit himself," they said in a statement.

But Ghosn's lawyer, who will give a press conference later Thursday, told reporters that prosecutors were engaging in "hostage justice."

"It's extremely unfair," Junichiro Hironaka told local media.

Reports emerged this week that Japanese prosecutors were investigating transfers by Ghosn of over $30 million of Nissan funds from 2012.

That came after news that Renault, which Ghosn also once headed, had handed French prosecutors documents showing the auto tycoon had authorised suspicious transfers worth millions of euros.

The former high-flying executive already faces three charges in Japan of financial misconduct related to allegations he under-reported his compensation and sought to transfer personal investment losses to Nissan's books.

He has denied any wrongdoing and took to Twitter for the first time Wednesday to announce plans to "tell the truth" at an 11 April news conference that now looks unlikely.

Prosecutors can hold Ghosn for up to 22 days while they investigate the new claims before he can seek bail again.

A Nissan spokesman said the firm's internal probe had uncovered "substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct" and that their focus was on "addressing weaknesses in governance that enabled this misconduct."

THE 'RAZOR'

Ghosn currently faces two separate charges of deferring his salary to the tune of nine billion yen ($81 million) and not revealing this in official documents to shareholders.

The Brazil-born auto sector pioneer also faces a charge of seeking to shift personal investment losses onto Nissan's books and then using company funds to pay a Saudi associate who stumped up collateral for him.

The case has produced one surprise after another since Ghosn's November 19 arrest at a Tokyo airport.

He has since been re-arrested on multiple occasions, employed a little-used article of Japanese law to force a day in court and emerged on bail dressed in a workman's uniform and cap in a bizarre attempt to avoid the media.

Since his release on bail on 6 March, he has kept scrupulously quiet despite daily attempts by local and international media to interview him.

His lawyer Hironaka, known as the "razor" for his mental sharpness, has done the talking for him, appearing twice in front of the foreign media to plead his client's innocence.

On Tuesday, he announced he had filed a petition with the Tokyo District Court for Ghosn's case to be heard separately from that of Nissan and his former right-hand man Greg Kelly.

Nissan has been indicted alongside Ghosn, as they filed the shareholders' documents that allegedly misstated the then chairman's income.

Hironaka said this would not be a fair trial as Nissan has effectively sided with the prosecutors by providing them with documents they say show further malpractice.

'TRAP'

Under Ghosn's management, Nissan recovered and formed a three-way alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors that has become one of the world's top-selling auto groups.

In an interview with AFP from his detention centre in January, Ghosn denounced a "trap" and a "plot" by Nissan prompted by opposition to his plans to bring the companies closer together.

He was removed as chairman by Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors almost immediately after his arrest.

Renault was slower to react but Ghosn eventually resigned as head of the French firm.

Ghosn's arrest and a string of financial misconduct allegations has sparked questions over Nissan's own corporate governance and the company established an independent body to propose changes to prevent a recurrence.

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